Sexual Abuse of Refugees
Authored By Harsh Mangal
Refugees may be victim of sexual abuse during their time of traveling or while they are staying at the camps arranged for them, or even when they move back to their own countries. India as an independent country has seen refugee crisis from time to time from the very starting because of partition. People who becomes refugee looses their Nationality, property, identity etc. After all these problems these people have to start their life from a new point, which becomes almost impossible for them if they have to face things like sexual abuse. This is the problem which needs to be addressed and to be focus upon worldwide and specially in the country like India with so much history of refugees. This article delves into the subject how refugees are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and how this inhuman act completely destroys their already ruined lives.
Sexual violence is the problem all over the world, in every section of the society, in all the age groups, among people from all the genders. Refugees are more vulnerable to offences like these as these people already lost their identities and have lesser rights as compared to the citizen of a country, but it is the duty of the host state to protect such vulnerable groups from grave offences like sexual harassment, as such grave and heinous crimes are unimaginably cruel, against the basic principles of humanity and it is a violation of natural justice. Sexual harassment of every kind is harm for the victim not only physically but also mentally, and can lead to serious depression and other mental or physical illness. Every society needs a strong legal system and a strong mechanism to fight against such grave and heinous crimes.
Every human being is entitled to basic human rights irrespective of his/her citizenship, nationality, religion or refugee status. Sexual violence is against these basic human rights in all senses, as women are raped repeatedly in refugee camps even by the people who are duty bound to protect them, for example security forces or police. Women are asked for favors like these by the people with authorities and power in exchange of food and other things of basic requirement. The issue of sexual exploitation in exchange of aid is known as survival sex and is very prevalent in all the refugee camps. This also leads to unwanted and unsafe pregnancy which is a cause of maternal deaths. Not only by authorities or people with power, women in closed refugee camps are also at high risk of being raped or sexually assaulted by the fellow refugees, and even by their own family members in frustration of living in a refugee camps.
Sexual Abuse of Male Refugees
Females are the primary victim of sexual offences but men are also not safe from crimes like these especially in a refugee camp. Boys also become the victim of painful and unnatural sexual activities in these camps. Sexual exploitation and rapes of male refugees by the security forces, aid providers, authorities and fellow refugees is more prevalent then commonly understood by the society. This is not only a serious violation of principles of natural justice or is not only against the human rights but this also discourage the refugees to move back or to return back to their countries even after the cross border conflict is resolved as most of the victims of sexual abuses looses the desire to live.
Sexual violence of any sort is against the basic human rights and is unacceptable, irrespective of victim’s gender, but this issue often remains unaddressed because male victims are mostly unwilling to complaint about such offences against their body and even denies any occurrence of sexual abuse against them. This is due to the illogical and strong taboo surrounding the sexual abuses against men. This could also be the result of the laws and conventions which completely ignores the possibility of men to be a victim of sexual harassment and torture. We have seen in India also male rape cases are not reported and if reported are not discussed much, and the need for making laws against the male rape cases was felt in India after the famous case Tukaram v. Union of India. Now, there is a need to formulate appropriate rape laws for the male victims and to eliminate the taboo that male cannot be sexually harassed. Laws against sexual harassment need to be more gender neutral in order to do justice with the refugees.
The Way Forward
Sexual offences are still present in the refugee camps because the existing policies to protect people from sexual harassment and sexual exploitation are not adequately implemented.
In the year 1979, UN member states committed to make the world a safe and better place for women who are more vulnerable to sexual offences. According to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women all the states should take required steps towards eliminating human trafficking and prostitution. These rules should also be applied to protect women from sexual offences in the refugee camps.
There are also cases of forced marriages in these refugee camps in order to protect women from sexual offences, which is against the basic rights of women to get married willfully and with full consent. The above mentioned convention also recognizes this right of women and hence could be implemented to keep a check on such activities in refugee camps.
Host countries should appoint counselors and people from law fraternity to make rules for a particular refugee camp. These refugees could be governed by these rules until the move back to their own countries or get the citizenship of the host country. Sexual violence is an issue of serious concern especially for more vulnerable groups like of refugees and hence law makers and government should consider all the suggestions to solve this problem, analyse these and take the required step.
The main purpose of the law or the legal system is to eliminate or eradicate the inhuman actions like sexual harassment. Protecting the refugees from such actions is also the responsibility of the legal system. If it fails to protect the basic rights of refugees and cannot make this world a place to live like for such vulnerable groups, then its existence is of no use and people will lose their faith from the legal system.
So, appropriate measures should be taken to eradicate such practices and focus should be on effective implementation of rules and laws in refugee camps. People residing in these camps requires support of law, authorities and citizens to survive in this world and till now we have failed in playing our part to help them.
1. Sexual and Reproductive Health, Sexual Violence, WHO